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GM Canada president says electric vehicles are the future — but they won’t be made in Oshawa

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GM Canada’s president says “there isn’t anything to build” after 2019 at the company’s Oshawa plant as the automaker bets big on electric and autonomous vehicles. There will be new GM jobs in Ontario, he says — just not on that long-running assembly line.

Travis Hester, an Australian, was just eight months into his new job as president of the automaker’s Canadian operation when he had to defend a change that will thrust 2,500 employees out of work and change a city that has been churning out vehicles for GM for decades.

Did he know back in April, when he arrived in Canada, that he would oversee the shuttering of the Oshawa plant?

“No, no,” he said in an exclusive interview, his first since the closure announcement last week. The decision to close the facility, which he said was made in Detroit, came down late this fall.

Hester, who has worked for GM in the U.S, Australia and China, is now facing a battle with a union that wants to save jobs, and the plant. 

“There’s not going to be any discussions with General Motors about what this orderly wind down looks like as it will be anything but orderly,” Unifor President Jerry Dias said last Friday.

But more than a week after news of the impending shutdown, GM continues to assert there is no alternative — no matter how great the pressure from the union or the governments that helped bail out the automaker in the last financial crash.

‘We don’t have any allocation’

The auto executive says he’s made it “very clear” to both Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Prime Minister Trudeau that “we don’t have any allocation” for a vehicle at the Oshawa plant going forward.

“So it’s very difficult to have a discussion on anything beyond December 2019 because there isn’t anything to build,” said Hester as he toured CBC News through GM’s new technology centre in Markham, north of Toronto.

As GM cuts thousands of manufacturing jobs in Canada, it’s hiring software engineers and coders to help develop its vehicles of the future. The company wants to transform operations to focus on electric and autonomous vehicles and Hester said Canada has a place at the core of that development. 

GM opened a new Canadian Technology Centre (CTC) last January and has hired 450 employees, with plans for 500 more by 2020, many coming straight out of Canadian universities.

“We’re adding jobs and we’re adding development expertise and all the associated things that go with that into Canada, where it just simply wasn’t in the past,” Hester said.

He said the high-tech centre in Markham will keep growing, pulling in talent here and around the world. 

“We see the future very strong here and in Canada for the development side.”

‘We believe that battery-electric vehicles will be the vehicles of the future,’ GM Canada’s president says. 1:08

Demand for electric vehicles is just a small fraction of the current market right now. Hester, however, is optimistic that the growth will come.

Whether it’s regulatory requirements or consumer-driven change, he said GM believes “battery-electric vehicles will be the vehicles of the future.”

That vision is likely cold comfort to the Oshawa plant workers, who won’t get a crack at engineering electric cars. GM Canada has said it will help retrain some workers from the Oshawa plant for other work such as auto technician jobs in GM dealerships. 

“What’s happening now in Oshawa is very tough,” Hester said. “So as much as we are transforming the future we’re still paying a lot of attention to what we’ve got.”

Barra facing backlash

GM’s CEO Mary Barra, meanwhile, is under increasing pressure in the U.S., where thousands more manufacturing jobs will be lost. Barra has faced pressure from many — including the U.S. president — to reverse course, particularly on the plant slated to close in Ohio. She’s agreed to meet Wednesday in Washington with some senators who are strongly urging her to reconsider the plan.

On another front, the UAW union in the U.S. is preparing to fight GM, accusing it of reneging on a commitment to put a moratorium on plant closures for the life of the current contract, which ends in 2020.

The union in Canada is making the same accusation.
 
“We’ve seen that document, and we don’t believe the document states we can’t do that,” Hester said Monday, refusing to elaborate on the details in advance of discussions with the union.

Unifor leader Jerry Dias has lambasted GM for the job cuts in Oshawa, where workers have been making cars for the company for decades. (Carlos Osorio/Reuters)

Unifor’s president said late last week that he thinks the company is trying to turn the dial away from the anger that followed the news of the Oshawa closure.
 
“They thought they would pacify the Canadian public by opening up the tech sector and then there would have been minimum noise at shut down,” Dias said on Friday.
 
“When they were opening the tech centre we said, ‘This is a wonderful initiative but don’t think that somehow this is going to replace their place of manufacturing jobs in Oshawa.’ And so that’s exactly how this thing came down.”

Fear around faltering demand

Closing Oshawa has raised new fears that if consumer demand falters in the future, GM might lean on its other two Ontario plants. But the Canadian boss said there are no changes planned for the CAMI plant in Ingersoll or the St. Catharines facility, which makes engines and transmissions.

“So these are going to be unchanged and continuing for the immediate future,” said Hester.

No changes planned in Ingersoll or St. Catharines 0:42

GM’s future in Canada will be a mix, he said, of growth in new technology and software development, along with existing manufacturing.

But all this will go forward without Oshawa’s flexible assembly plant, which was built in a way that allows it to be retooled.

Hester said the company doesn’t have enough volume to fill all the plants as demand for sedans falls.

“I don’t think you could put anything else in Oshawa,” he said. “Not without spending incredible amounts of investment, which would make it not viable.”

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Do you know what kind of condo you’re buying?

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(NC) Condominiums can come in all shapes and sizes. But it’s important to know that not all condos are created equal when it comes to warranty coverage.

Whether you’re buying a condominium townhouse, loft-style two-bedroom or a high-rise studio, they are all classified as condominiums if you own your unit while at the same time share access (and the associated fees) for facilities ranging from pools and parking garages to elevators and driveways, otherwise known as common elements.

The most common types of condos are standard condominiums and common elements condominiums. The determination of how a condominium project is designated happens during the planning stage when the builder proposes the project and the municipality approves it.

When you’re in the market to buy, you need to know how your chosen condo is classified because it affects the warranty coverage under the Ontario New Home Warranties Plan Act. Standard condominiums have warranty coverage for units and common elements, but common elements condominiums only have unit coverage.

How could this affect you as the owner? If your condo complex has underground parking and, for example, there are problems with leaks or a faulty door, the condo designation will determine whether there’s warranty coverage.

If your unit is a standard condominium development, then the common elements warranty may cover the repairs. If it’s a common element condominium development, then repairs might have to be covered by the condo corporation’s insurance, which could impact your condo fees or require a special assessment on all the owners.

To avoid surprises, you should have a real estate lawyer review the Declaration and Description attached to your purchase agreement to be sure that you know the designation and boundaries of the unit you’re looking to purchase. Find more information on the types of condos and their coverage at tarion.com.

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5 savvy renovations to make your kitchen look like new

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(NC) The kitchen is the heart and focal point of any home. But if yours is looking a little tired, a few simple renovations can change the feel of the entire space.

Whether you’ve just moved in, have been meaning to update for years or are experiencing life changes, remember that a kitchen uplift doesn’t have to come with a huge price tag. These small-scale projects could be the change your kitchen needs:

  1. Brighten it up.Adding LED lights below your cabinets will brighten your backsplash and counter and provide a warm glow. Place your favourite containers below to act as focal points – those copper canisters that are hiding under the island and the marble coasters you couldn’t resist can now all be on display.
  2. Swap the old with the new.The backsplash is the first thing you see, so replacing it can be enough to give the space a whole new look. Try a unique shape or colour to change things up, like turquoise or patterned tiles, hexagon-shaped tiles or even a full slab of stainless steel.
  3. Rework what you have.People often think new cabinets are necessary for a kitchen reno, but a lot can be done with what you’ve got. Repainting the cabinets and switching out the knobs to chic new handles will do wonders for a makeover.
  4. Don’t hide away.Try adding some open shelving in an unused spot, such as above the sink or window, or next to the cabinets. Display your most beautiful dishes and add some decorative pieces to give the space a modern, airy feel.
  5. Add new materials into the mix.Changing the island to a butcher-block counter adds warmth and practicality.

Taking on a renovation can often feel overwhelming. But if you talk to your contractor about budgeting and spreading out payments through services like The Home Depot Project Loan, it can be easier than you think. The service allows you to finance any home projects, big or small and is available at locations across Canada.

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How to afford a home renovation that fits your life

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(NC) Changing seasons always bring about the desire to update our living spaces. But your life stage and budget can influence what kind of upgrades you can make. Here are some tips to get you started.

Assess the investment. The first step is to gauge how much value your investment will bring, whether you’re looking to sell or grow into a family home. A common misconception among home owners is that all renovations will increase a home’s value; unfortunately, this is not always the case. It’s always a good idea to strategically renovate the space to fit your life plan and goals.

Plan for both long- and short-term value. As a homeowner, it is important to assess what kind of value items can contribute to your life plan. Searching for products that are energy efficient, like an eco-friendly washing machine or water filtration system, can help you save on your monthly bills. A long-term investment, such as hardwood floors or bathroom tiles, can spruce up a living space for years to come. While sometimes this require a larger budget, the project can be both appealing to future buyers and stand the test of time in a family home.

Create a renovation budget. Once you have a clear plan, you’ll need to create a budget to align with your financial goals. Always ensure your budget includes any interest you’ll be paying. Ask multiple sources for competitive quotes.

Use a payment plan. For those high-ticket investment items, consider using a payment plan. Payment solutions such as The Home Depot Project Loan can help with bigger renovations. This allows you to stick to your budgeting goals while using a flexible payment plan to make larger purchases more accessible.

Use DIY to offset costs. In addition to using a payment plan, taking on a few safe and simple renovation projects yourself is an easy way to offset renovation costs. Your local hardware store can help source materials and provide helpful tips to make those do-it-yourself projects, such as refinishing cabinets or sanding old hardwood floors, a breeze.

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